4 Lesser-known Benefits Of Tongkat Ali: Malaysia’s Home-grown ‘Viagra’

Reviewed By Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian
Written by Swathi Handoo

If you have insomnia or a plummeting sex life, worry not! This article might help you correct both. Most of the time, in these cases, synthetic drugs fail to work. Did you ever give herbal medicine a thought? Tongkat ali is the herb we will be discussing in this article.

Tongkat ali is a well-known plant-based supplement grown in Southeast Asia. The herb and its parts find their roots in traditional medicine. Dried and fresh ali extracts have been used to treat erectile dysfunction, age-related mental and physical disorders, and even diabetes. To know the what, why, and how of this herbal wonder, scroll down!

In This Article

What Is Tongkat Ali?


Eurycoma longifolia a.k.a Tongkat ali, Pasak Bumi, Malaysian Ginseng, or Longjack is a medicinal herb that grows in parts of Vietnam, Java, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Thailand.

For many years, the plant parts of this herb have been lauded for their aphrodisiac, antidiabetic, antimicrobial, antimalarial, and revitalizing properties (1).

These properties are due to Tongkat ali’s rich biochemical composition. These active components primarily boost testosterone levels. Drinking tongkat root tea regularly might help men and women improve their libido (2).

With age, testosterone levels drop. This causes several bone, brain, and metabolic disorders. Tongkat ali, according to scientific evidence, can be of great help in such cases.

Go to the next section to see how and why tongkat ali is also called the Malaysian Viagra.

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What Are The Benefits Of Tongkat Ali?

1. Improves Performance In Athletes And Bodybuilders

Tongkat ali is a part of several sports and bodybuilding supplements. This herbal extract can increase energy levels, decrease cortisol, and enhance exercise performance. These effects could be because of the probable increase in serum testosterone levels in athletes.

Studies on male and female athletes showed a spike in the bioavailability of free testosterone upon tongkat ali supplementation. A daily dose of 400 mg tongkat ali for 5 weeks improved muscle force in older men and women (3).

Another study showed that consuming a herbal drink with 0.1 mg/100 ml Tongkat Ali enhanced running performance in cyclists (4).

2. Can Boost Testosterone And Libido In Men

Using tongkat ali extract (200 mg/day) can increase the levels of free and total serum testosterone in men.

Traditionally, this herb was used to improve sex drive and libido. Though the mechanism remains unclear, it is speculated that the ‘eurypeptides’ in tongkat ali could be involved (2).

Eurypeptides are a group of small peptides in this herb. They are thought to influence the rate of release of bound testosterone from sex-hormone-binding-hormone (SHBG).

The Malaysians used tongkat ali as an aphrodisiac for impotence and erectile dysfunction as well as to treat fatigue (2).

A rat study performed in 2017 demonstrated how tongkat ali extracts could counter penile contraction. Its semi-purified root extract can treat erectile dysfunction by working on the angiotensin system (5).

Tongkat Trivia!

  • Eurycoma longifolia or tongkat ali has potent antibacterial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal activity. Some components of the tongkat ali extract are known to have antimalarial properties.
  • Regular supplementation of tongkat ali can reduce stress, anxiety, anger, and confusion. The root extracts have phytochemicals that reduce cortisol levels and protect your body from various stresses.

3. Helps Maintain Bone Health In Aging Men And Women


As you age, your skeletal system gets affected the most. This might be because of the depleting levels of the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone.

Particularly in men, testosterone deficiency leads to reduced bone strength, lean body mass, and calcium absorption. Some studies also suggest such hypogonadism impairs the activity of estrogen too. All these might cumulatively give rise to osteoporosis and frequent fractures or dislocations (6).

As an alternative to testosterone replacement therapy, supplements containing herbs like tongkat ali can improve the condition in these older individuals.

Tongkat ali is known for increasing the serum testosterone level. It can, therefore, help male and female menopausal osteoporosis (6).

4. Might Help Regulate Diabetes

It was observed across several rat studies that tongkat ali extracts could also regulate blood glucose levels.

In hyperglycemic rats, blood glucose levels saw a drop by about 38% – 47% after consumption of the supplement. In normal rats that had optimal glycemic levels, no change was observed (7).

This effect is attributed to increased insulin sensitivity brought about by tongkat ali components. A small dose (50 μg/mL) of the herbal extract enhanced glucose uptake by 200%!

Tongkat ali root extracts showed the ability to reduce lipid accumulation and increase insulin sensitivity in a dose-dependent manner. Hence, this herb can be a comprehensive treatment option for diabetes (7).

Are you wondering what compounds in tongkat ali are responsible for all these benefits? Check out the next section for the answer.

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What Are The Active Components Of Tongkat Ali?

Eurycoma longifolia has various active biochemicals that are responsible for the benefits you just read about. The most extensively characterized compounds include β-carboline alkaloids, quassinoids, canthin-6-one alkaloids, and squalene derivatives (7).

Steroids like eurycolactone, eurycomalactone, laurycolactone, and biphenyl neolignan are reported. Triterpenes, including tirucallane and eurylene, along with propanoids like scopolin and propan are also present in the extracts (7), (8).

Quassinoids are the major constituents and impart the characteristic bitter taste to this Malaysian ginseng root. The β-Carboline and Canthin-6-one alkaloids are nitrogen-containing components that give tongkat ali its insect-repellent properties (7).

What a unique phytochemical profile for a simple shrub! Aren’t we envious of those who’ve been using this holistic herb traditionally?

You don’t have to envy them anymore! This is because tongkat ali is available for the world to use. You can find various forms of this potent herb in the marketplace.

Eager to know what they are? Jump to the next section!

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How Do You Take Tongkat Ali?

Tongkat Ali is currently available in various forms on the markets. You can find them as vegetarian capsules, liquid extract, root extract powder, and alcohol-free tincture.

It is recommended to use them only under medical guidance since certain formulations might be very potent. Your body might not need or not be able to handle certain doses mentioned by the manufacturer. Therefore, consult your doctor for the right dosage and directions to use.

Animal studies showed that administration of tongkat ali alcohol extract up to 200-350 mg/kg/day was not toxic. Some mice and rat studies quote a daily dose below 1000-1200 mg/kg body weight to be safe and non-toxic (9).

According to these studies, oral administration of tongkat ali is about 100 times less toxic than intraperitoneal injections (9).

In Short…

Tongkat ali is a herbal medicinal plant found abundantly in Vietnam, Java, Sumatra, and Malaysia. As it has a range of traditional therapeutic benefits – physical and mental – it is called Malaysian ginseng.

You can find tongkat ali in dietary supplements that improve libido and energy, sports performance, and hormonal balance. Most of its applications are backed by substantial evidence.

Also, because there are not many studies demonstrating the side effects of tongkat ali, it is safe for use for most people. We recommend you check with your physician before you order tongkat ali supplements to avoid adverse effects.

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If you liked what you read, share your feedback, queries, and suggestions in the section below.


  1. Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia Jack): a review on its…” Fitoterapia, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Effect of Tongkat Ali on stress hormones and psychological…” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Heavy Resistance Training and Supplementation With the Alleged…” Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Herbal medicine for sports: a review” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Effects of Root Extracts of Eurycoma longifolia Jack on…” Medical Principles and Practice, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Eurycoma longifolia: Medicinal Plant in the Prevention and…” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Review on a Traditional Herbal Medicine, Eurycoma longifolia” Molecules, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Review Ergogenic Effect of Long Jack, Eurycoma longifolia” Pharmacognosy Review, US National Library Of Medicine.
  9. In vivo effects of Eurycoma longifolia Jack (Tongkat Ali)…” Andrologia 2014, Academia.
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Staci Gulbin

(MS, MEd, RD, LDN)
Staci Gulbin is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of LighttrackNutrition.com. She has been a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2010 and has over a decade of experience in the nutrition and dietetics industry. Staci has also been applying her health and wellness knowledge to writing and editing for websites, such as CDiabetes,... more